Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Some background, and the beginning 


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A (who's name really isn't a secret, I'm just taking precautions about potential familial google searches. He has the same name as...moses's brother. I'll be taking even more anti-google precautions as this goes on) was technically the "youngest" in the family, born 5 minutes after E via cesarean section. He was so tiny that he was in neonatal intensive care for a few days. I was 3 and a half, and (so I've been told) was afraid of him because he was so tiny.

Of the two, A was the more submissive twin. When they fought, he was usually the one to back down. He was a little slower than E. NOT that he was stupid, it just took him longer to process things. He liked to think things over carefully, which, when he was older, made him the philosopher of the family. A didn't do as well in school as E. Both were diagnosed with ADD and depression, but what that really meant is that they were both smart, artistic, and rebellious.

I had a very rocky relationship with my brothers growing up. I was the good child, they constantly misbehaved and therefore, got all the attention. They were ALWAYS getting into trouble. It was very embarrassing for me, especially when I got to high school. However, of the two, A was my favorite. He was sweeter than E. E and I are similar, in that when something upsets us, we sit and stew about it for a long time. We hold grudges. Not A. His temper was explosive. He had a short fuse and got frustrated very easily. However, as soon as his anger was vented, just like that, it was over. No grudges held. A was a little more thoughtful than E. He was the first of the two to have a girlfriend, and the first to have a serious girlfriend, C. I'll talk more about her later.

A was, in a way, kind of a renaissance man. He was an artist: he loved to draw and make up comic books, and even started making jewelry. He liked to work with his hands. E preferred different medias, computers and video, but A liked to work with his hands. I already mentioned that he was a bit of philosopher. He also was a little more...Masculine than E. He liked the outdoors, and enjoyed going hunting with my dad and great uncle.

A didn't do very well in school. Taking tests was difficult for him, because if he didn't' know an answer, he would get frustrated and just freeze up. He was given special attention, more time for tests, and he managed to get through OK. High school was very trying for him. He (along with E) was always getting into trouble. He believed that the principal and vice principal had it in for him (probably true). They were always getting their chains from their wallets confiscated (it's a weapon, don't' you know. Even though a PENCIL could be used as a weapon. so stupid). High school was very trying for him, and he really didn't hold much hope out for getting into a college. A wanted to draw comic books, though. And there were only two schools on the east coast that had majors in comic book art: Joe Kubrics, in NJ, and Savannah School of Art and Design (SCAD) in Georgia. My parents took my brothers to Savannah to tour the school, and A fell in LOVE. Suddenly, he was very excited about school. He wanted to graduate so he could go to SCAD. We all held our breaths when his application went out. Would he get in? Would they count his bad grades against him?

We breathed a collective sigh of relief when he finally got the acceptance letter. He was so excited. I had never seen him so happy about school. I was in college at the time, and my relationship with my brothers had improved significantly when I was no longer living at home and dealing with them on a daily basis. PLUS, after I turned 21, I was "upped" the cool scale, because THEORETICALLY, I could buy them beer. I never did, but the potential was there.

Everyone in the family was sure that going to SCAD would be A's salvation. There he would find direction and purpose. Where before he was always bucking the system, in college that artistic drive would finally fit in. It was a good feeling.

That year, E started college at a school in Pittsburgh in August. SCAD didn't start until October. I started my final semester in college in August. I had started college with 18 credits due to all the geeky AP classes I took. Plus I took a loaded freshman year, reasoning (correctly) that I wanted to get as many required core classes out of the way as possible while my major classes were still relatively easy. Because of all this, I had the opportunity to graduate a semester early. I decided to take it, thinking that maybe I could work for a while to save up some money before starting grad school, or some bull shit like that. I remember regretting the decision almost immediately after signing the paperwork. What had I done? I could just take bullshit classes and hang out with my friends and drink!!!! Gah! I didn't' know at the time how grateful I would become that I wasn't in school that spring. I consider that to be one of many small signs that even though we were about to go through something that no family should have to endure, God was with us.

I had spent that summer doing undergrad research that would look good on a grad school application. I had received a Pfizer Undergraduate Fellowship Award for $5000 (sweet!), but part of that award was that in the fall I had to travel with my advisor to Pfizer headquarters in Rhode Island to present a poster of my data. Yay...did I mention I had no data? Nothing I did worked that summer. Looking back, there were a thousand things I could have done differently, but I was a stupid undergrad who didn't know any better, and my advisor was apparently lazy and didn't do a proper job advising me. But that is a rant for another day.

Since Pfizer was footing the bill, we decided to fly out of the small airport near the college, which meant a 3 hour layover in Pittsburgh. I walked around the airmall for a while, and then decided to give my mom a call. This was the dark ages, before cell phones, remember, so I whipped out my trusty student calling card, sat down at a pay phone, and rang her up.

We chatted for a bit about my upcoming trip, school, etc. I asked how my brothers were doing. E had started school a few months ago, but A had just started the week before, and I was eager to know how he was doing.

Mom said he was enjoying it so far, that he had made a few friends in the dorm. But he had missed classes the past couple of days because he wasn't feeling well. Probably strept throat, mom thought. He had a headache and a sore throat. Poor guy. Mom and I chatted a big longer, then it was time fore me to head to the gate. I said I'd call her when I got back from my trip.

I spent the weekend with my advisor in RI. That is a post for another day, but while my data sucked, the overall experience was pretty cool.

I returned a few days later to my dorm room (a single room, I was sick of living with a roommate) and a blinking answering machine. It was my mother. She and my dad were flying down to Savannah. A was very sick and the doctors said that they needed to be there. She would call me later when she knew more.